Did you know one of NSW’s most esteemed distance runners over the last decade Angela Leadbeatter is also a coach? In this article you can read her views and approach to coaching, highlighting to us all what a great asset she is too our coaching ranks. She particularly notes the need to nurture the very young athlete, including limited training loads, cross training and rest periods.
How did you become involved in coaching and how did the transition from participant to coach/participant evolve?
A few years back, I was asked by a few friends with children that had made it to state for cross country if I’d take their kids for a few runs. I started with four kids about eight years ago and it’s grown to around 70 in my cross-country squad this year.
During your athletics career were you thinking about coaching?
No. I hadn’t really thought about it, but as I’ve continued to train and race I guess I just fell into coaching juniors. I always felt like I have a lot of knowledge and experience to pass on.
Has being a participant helped you in your coaching?
Definitely, in respect to the amount of training my junior squad does. I am very conscious that they don’t do too much. My squad trains twice a week from March until the end of October and then we have a couple of months off, mainly because the majority of the squad compete in surf lifesaving over summer which keeps them all very fit and the cross training is excellent for their strength. I also find they come back to running fresh and more motivated.
What events do you coach? Where do you coach?
I mainly coach distance/middle distance/cross country in East Lake Macquarie south of Newcastle. I also coach surf lifesaving soft sand events. For the last 10 years I have been competing for Swansea Belmont in the 2km beach run at the state championships and Australian championships. A 1km soft sand run was introduced for nippers in 2017 so I’ve started coaching some juniors on the sand.
Is it fulltime or combined with a career?
I work part-time so my coaching is additional. I have just started a new women’s run squad that I conduct on Thursdays and Fridays for beginners to regular runners. I’ve always had a lot of interest from other mums and ladies about learning to run and training for an event. I love passing on my knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport to get people out there running.
Tell us about some of the athletes in your squad?
I have a very strong squad of 11-year-olds with two of them, Hannah Jarvis and my own son, Ty Leadbeatter both placing second at the NSW All Schools Cross Country this year. I’ve had Kaylee Dowsett who represented NSW in U14s at Australian XC training with me since she was 11. Sarah Pickering who is an Australian medalist for middle distance has been running with me this year. I have some strong juniors that will be coming through in the next couple of years and some top surf sports competitors.
In your short career as a coach can you tell us about some highlights or special moments?
It’s always a highlight when any of my athletes make a NSW State team, as a kid that’s the best thing. There’s nothing like getting your first NSW tracksuit.
I am also very proud to have more than 35 of my athletes representing the Hunter Region at NSW State All Schools Cross Country Championships this year with eight placing in the top-10 and two medalists.
As a participant, how do you schedule in coaching and your own training?
I do all my own training at 5.30am in the morning, it’s been like that ever since I’ve had my three children. I also do a lot of the sessions with my squad, it’s good for them to see their coach hurting and we do it together as a team.
Why coach? Enjoyable aspects of coaching?
I am very passionate about keeping girls in the sport through their teenage years when the drop out rate is high, this year I had 18 girls at state cross country which really makes me proud. I believe next year that number will be higher.
I also get satisfaction seeing my squad support and encourage each other as teammates not just individuals. I hope the friendships that have been formed at training will last a lifetime.
Coaching philosophy? Who have been your coaching mentors?
I’ve trained with a number of coaches over the years. When I was younger, Jason Maxwell was my first coach and I still seek advice from him regularly. He coaches some top distance runners in Newcastle. I was also coached by Hans Tiller and trained for five years with Scotty Westcott, both are still coaching in Newcastle and I speak to them regularly.
Do you have any advice for other coaches?
My junior squad is built around friendships, I believe if the kids love coming to training because they have friends there they will keep coming back no matter what the session is. I also believe quality over quantity, kids don’t need to be running a lot of kilometres it just leads to early burnout.
Your own athletics career highlight/s?
I have a number of highlights, especially racing with some of the greats of the sport like Kerryn McCann. Probably the most notable performance highlights are winning two silver medals at the Australian Cross Country Championships in the open women’s and placing third Australian at the Zatopek 10km in 2000. Representing Australia on the road and in mountain running was also an absolute honour. In recent times I’m really proud of my results on the sand winning the Australian SLS 2km Beach Run Open Women’s championship from 2013-2016. I am so very fortunate to be still racing competitively now at 41 which is definitely a major highlight.
David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW
Image: Angela Leadbeatter with members of her squad